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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Doug Coby was in the right place at the right time and came home with the big prize Tuesday at Daytona International Speedway.
Coby, from Milford, Conn., took advantage of a late-race incident involving a dominant Ryan Preece and drove to victory in the NASCAR Whelen Modified-Whelen Southern Modified Tour portion of the UNOH Battle At The Beach on the short track at "The World Center of Racing."
Daytona was Coby’s first start in the No. 2 Dunleavy’s Truck & Trailer Repair Ford for Mike Smeriglio III Racing. The team also won the inaugural UNOH Battle At The Beach a year ago with Steve Park behind the wheel.
Preece, the reigning Whelen Modified Tour champion, undoubtedly had the car to beat on Tuesday. The 23-year-old NASCAR Next driver earned the Coors Light Pole Award in afternoon qualifying and set the pace throughout the feature, at times well ahead of the rest of the field. With nine laps to go, however, a non-lead-lap car driven by Davie Sapienza got into Preece going through a turn and significantly damaged Preece’s left rear wheel.
On the ensuing restart following a caution for the incident, Preece faded wide in Turns 1 and 2 to open the door for Coby, who had restarted third behind Preece. Coby then powered to the lead and held off a hard-charging Jason Myers for the victory.
Coby and Myers were followed across the line by Luke Fleming, Preece and Burt Myers.
Rookies Tommy Barrett Jr. and Cody Ware finished sixth and seventh, respectively, while Ron Silk, Eric Goodale and JR Bertuccio brought home the top 10.
The UNOH Battle At The Beach proved to be quite the debut for Coby with MSIII Racing. The 34-year-old competed at a high level for the past three seasons with Darling Racing in the No. 52, where they teamed to win the 2012 Whelen Modified Tour title and finished as the 2013 runner-up. But the Darling operation faced uncertainty heading into this season and Coby made a tough decision to move to the vacant No. 2 seat to secure a shot at another championship.
Tuesday’s race may have been a non-points event, but it certainly announced the Coby-MSIII Racing pairing as title contenders.
For Preece, it was another near miss. He led the first 129 laps from the pole in last fall’s Whelen Southern Modified Tour season finale on the quarter mile at Charlotte Motor Speedway before a blown engine derailed his run to the checkers. On Tuesday in Daytona he came up just three laps shy after leading the first 147.
The UNOH Battle At The Beach was slowed by eight cautions for 44 laps, significantly less than in 2013’s inaugural event when there were 17 for 89.
The race was carried live by Fox Sports 2 and re-broadcast later in the evening on Fox Sports 1.
The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour opens the championship points season April 6 at Thompson (Conn.) Speedway Motorsports Park. The NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour kicks off March 9 at Caraway Speedway in Sophia, N.C.
Doug Coby leads the way en route to the win in the NASCAR Whelen Modified/NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified special event at the UNOH Battle At The Beach Tuesday. Getty Images